10 frugal tips to help you save money (without even noticing)
It's that time of year when every penny counts. Perhaps you've planned a frugal few months to make up for overspending at Christmas. Maybe you're saving for that summer holiday. Most of us could use a helping hand, so we've put together some frugal (and easy) ways to help you save money.
Ditch the meal deal
How does an extra £720 a year sound?
Ditch that £3 supermarket meal deal and you'll soon be quids in. That sad looking sandwich and crisp combo may seem like a bargain, but it adds up. Homecooked meals are cheaper, healthier and more filling. Money in your pocket and an energy boost for the afternoon ahead.
Cook once, eat twice is a great motto to remember. Double up quantities and enjoy the leftovers for lunch. Or, set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to batch cook plenty of delicious and nutritious meals to see you through weeknights and dinner hours. Fill up your freezer with a host of healthy lunches ready to grab and go - both your bank balance and waistline will thank you for it. Think ahead, plan your shopping list wisely and you'll no longer be caught short when hunger strikes.
You could be overpaying for your gas, electricity, mobile phone, car insurance, broadband, TV... the list goes on. Imagine how much the savings could stack up to if you take the time to compare deals and switch to cheaper tariffs all round? Comparison sites like MoneySupermarket and Go Compare are everywhere, so there's no excuse. And a little effort now could add up to long-term savings.
Only pay for what you watch
In the same vein, many of us fork out for Sky or Virgin TV packages month after month, yet hardly find the time to watch enough to warrant the hefty direct debit. Once upon a time satellite TV was the only way to access all of those unmissable shows, but technology and the way we watch TV have changed and you could be overpaying for your entertainment.
If you have a TV with Freeview built-in, you could find this is all you need to get your telly fix. It's also free to catch up on BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and Channel 4 On Demand online. And if that's not quite enough to satisfy your viewing habits, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime now offer a host of content for a fraction of the price of the satellite providers.
Sell your stuff
There are so many great websites devoted to helping you sell stuff, nowadays. Even better, they're (mostly) easy to use and listing an item is quick and painless. We all know of eBay, but you could also try Depop, Gumtree and Amazon.
If your selling goes beyond clearing out the cupboards and you can actually make your own products, turn to sites like Etsy to market your goods to the right audience.
Lots of eBay-type businesses start out in the home, but soon expand to need office or storage space. In fact, many of our customers use Store First storepods to run their small business. Contact your local centre to see if we could help you and your start-up to save money in the long run.
Delete your cookies
So, you've done the right thing and clicked away before buying that pair of trainers, dress or NutriBullet you can't actually afford. Yet the sneaky item in question then proceeds to follow you all over the internet, whispering "buy me!" Some of these paid-for ads literally do urge you to return to make that purchase you'd so wisely opted against. And said item suddenly seems increasingly desirable the more you see it, making you think you really do deserve to treat yourself to it.
There's an easy way to put a stop to this cruel trick. Simply go to your browsing history, select the option to delete cookies and wave goodbye to temptation. Before you do something you might regret.
Check what you're owed
PPI is a well-publicised way to get back what's rightly yours, but it's not the only way. If you can spare the time spent on hold to HMRC, check your tax code to see whether you've been paying too much by being assigned the incorrect tax code.
According to MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis, thousands of us are overpaying council tax due to homes being placed in the wrong band. Correcting this error could save you money on your monthly payments and even lead to a generous rebate. Find out more here.
Look down the back of the sofa
Empty your pockets, raid the back of the sofa, tip up that penny jar gathering dust and make the trip to your local supermarket to deposit it all into that Coinstar machine you've walked past time after time. You can pocket the cash or use the vouchers to do your weekly shop - whichever works best for your budget.
Boost your Tesco points
If you're a Tesco shopper, you'll be familiar with your Clubcard and the regular money-off vouchers you receive in the post. But before you pop them into your wallet to get a bit of money off your next shop, check out the Clubcard Boost scheme to see if you could make them go further and save yourself some money on days out, hotel stays, fine dining and travel.
Exchanging vouchers for tokens sees their value skyrocket by up to four times, so that £10 voucher could turn into a £40 meal, cinema trip or family activity. There are plenty of options on how you can spend your tokens, which you easily order online. Make sure you plan activities in advance, though, as some tokens are eligible for postal delivery only.
If you build up enough, you can plan a fun-packed schedule for the coming months, without paying a penny. Or, save them up and steer your friends towards Clubcard-friendly venues when you're next planning a pre-payday restaurant or cinema trip you'd otherwise miss out on.
Many money-saving sites recommend tipping yourself to save money. The way you choose to do it is up to you. You could match any tips you pay out in restaurant, taxis or hairdressers by transferring the same amount to a savings account, then watch the funds slowly stack up.
Or, you could set up a rewards scheme and pay into said savings account whenever you achieve certain tasks on your to do list - for example, cleaning the bathroom or going for a run. £1 a mile could see you smashing your fitness goals.
A good tip is to set up a savings account you can't easily withdraw or transfer from, otherwise you may be tempted to dip into it from time to time. If you leave it untouched for a year, you could be surprised how much you've accumulated without really noticing.
Cancel your gym membership
Unless you're a regular gym bunny, that direct debit could be the only thing actually running. Keeping in good shape is important for your body, mind and general wellbeing, of course. Yet there are plenty of ways to exercise for free. Join a running club, download a HIIT app onto your phone or spend a fiver on a workout DVD and limber up in your living room.
If you're already a Store First customer, or thinking of becoming one, great news - most of our centres have a gym you can use for free when you store with us. Simply speak to a member of the team and they'll be happy to show you round.
And on that note, happy saving!